Day to day, facilities managers tackle many number of challenges, from minor hiccups to major headaches. But sometimes things get worse. Much worse. From earthquakes to tornados, from hurricanes to floods, natural disasters can put your entire operation at risk. The key to continued success is the right business continuity plan, backed by the right maintenance software.
Before looking at how maintenance management software helps facilities managers with business continuity planning for natural disasters, let’s hammer out a basic definition.
Defining business continuity planning
Resilience is an organization’s ability to withstand change and still function. The more resilient it is, the more change it can handle. Business continuity planning is how organizations increase their resiliency. Generally, the process involves investing in both prevention and preparation. For prevention, a facility in an area prone to earthquakes might have specific design features that make it less likely to collapse. And for preparation, the same building might have earthquake emergency kits strategically located on each floor. The idea is to take steps to avoid problems when you can and then steps to deal with those problems when they’re unavoidable.
Business continuity planning is a company wide effort; success depends on buy-in and ongoing support from every department. For facilities managers, it’s an essential part of the job: the International Facility Management Association considers it one of the 11 core competencies.
Now that we have a working definition, let’s look at how to get started and the ways good cmms software makes business continuity planning and execution easier.
Establish your must-haves and nice-to-haves with maintenance software
When disaster strikes, you’re not going to be able to protect everything, and when you’re putting the pieces back together, you’re not going to be able to do everything at once. So you need to know what your organization does, it’s key business functions, and then what it absolutely needs to get the job done. The assets that support the key functions become your priorities when setting up the business continuity plan.
Maintenance software can make this process easier; if you already have a preventive maintenance program, you’ve already worked out some of your mission-critical equipment. That’s the whole point of a preventive maintenance plan: find the most important assets and making sure you keep them up and running. If you’re not scheduling and tracking a preventive maintenance program, now’s your chance to get one set up, killing two birds with one stone. To get set up, first look at each asset and determine its level of criticality, which is just another way of asking yourself, “If this asset stops working, how bad is it going to be for the organization?” Assets with high criticality get the most protection, and when disaster strikes, they likely get fixed or replaced first.
preventive maintenance scheduling and tracking for critical assets
Once you know what you need to protect, you need to determine what it needs protecting from. In many cases, it just comes down to location. Earthquakes in California, tornadoes in Kansas, and hurricanes in Florida. For more nuanced risk management, you can use this formula: risk = probability X effect. In some cases, even when there’s a high probability of a problem, the effect on the organization is relatively small. Easy-to-understand examples: you might be in an area prone to flooding, but the overall risk is low because your company sells boats. Or you might be in an area where flooding is rare, but the overall risk is high because your facility is a hospital.
Batten down the hatches, move to safety with maintenance software
A lot of natural disasters move relatively slowly, giving you enough time to secure the facilities before moving to safety. With maintenance software, things get secured properly.
The challenge for facilities managers is they’re asking people to do tasks under stress that are both critical and unfamiliar. Remember, prepping an asset for a flood is very different than turning it off for the night or locking it out for routine maintenance. Maintenance software ensures that task are completely properly because unlike older paper- or spreadsheet-based systems, a modern CMMS is backed by cloud computing, which means it’s easy to pack in everything people need to close out work orders properly, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Digital images, schematics, and O&M manuals
- Interactive floor and site maps
find exactly where you need to be
Not only is there a lot of information, but it’s also easy to find and use. You’re not asking people to suffer through tiny print on a page or pinch and spread endlessly on spreadsheets attached to emails. A good modern CMMS solution comes with an easy-to-learn, easy-to-use interface. Everything is a few taps or a quick scroll away.
On some platforms, the built-in template feature creates an extra layer of preparation. Long before any natural disaster, templates packed with information can be built and stored in the software. Then when they’re needed, new work orders can be quickly generated using the templates.
Come back fast and strong with maintenance software
After the floodwaters have receded, the wind has died down, and the aftershocks are over, it’s time to repair and rebuild. A lot of the common advice on how to come back quickly focuses on creating strong lines of communication and safeguarding important information. Modern maintenance software does this by default.
Older maintenance systems were prone to losing data or corrupting it. When everything is written down on scraps of paper, things fall through the cracks easily. When everything is done on spreadsheets, it’s hard to keep data up to date;,everyone has different versions of the files on their computers or as email attachments. Modern facility management software keeps all the data in one central database, which can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. Because everyone is looking at the same data and any changes are reflected in real-time, everyone is kept up to date. The software becomes the one clear, strong channel everyone can use to communicate with the facilities manager.
Maintenance software makes it easy to collect data and keep it safe. Some of the data is entered when you first set up the database. But a lot of it is automatically collected by the software. For example, it remembers every generated work order and every closed out preventive maintenance. The data is kept safe and accessible by the provider, which means you never have to worry about it. They look after all the data backup and software updates. Importantly, all of this IT infrastructure is offsite. You don’t have to worry about moving on-premises servers or having the software go offline.
Once the software is set up, it contains digital copies of:
- Preventive maintenance schedules
- Complete asset repair and maintenance histories
- Repair and maintenance manuals
- Asset warranties
It also has contact information for:
- Maintenance technicians
- Third-party vendors
- Part and materials suppliers
All of this is critical when getting your facility back on its feet. You have the information you need to work with your own team, insurance companies, suppliers, and trades.
Facilities managers play a crucial role in business continuity planning. And maintenance software makes the job a lot easier. If you don’t have a modern solution in place, or you have one, but it’s failing to deliver what it promised, it’s time to reach out to providers and get the conversation started. Once they have an idea of your specific challenges, they can walk you through the features that best meet your needs.
But finding the right software is not just about finding the right list of features. CMMS software is only as good as it is easy to use. In the end, fancy features are worth anything if they’re trapped behind a confusing user experience. Remember, people could be using the software under the shadow of a natural disaster. You want something intuitive.